On 13 April 2020, while Egyptians were bracing themselves for the first Ramadan under the restrictions of the pandemic, Heba Anwar, an already popular health-coach issued the first edition of her book Ramadanak Smart “A smart Ramadan”.
The around 200-page book offers a guideline for people to administer their fasting routine in a way that allows them to pursue a spiritual and physical detox through managing their food, meditations, prayers and socialisation in a way that dispels whatever is harmful to the body and the mind.
The book has been quite a hit and has been since reprinted and sold in bookstores and online. According to Anwar, the book is the inspiration of her own detox journey and those of others who have been joining her online health-coaching during the past five years.
“It all started when I had to prepare for the exams of my health coaching ahead of Ramadan back in 2016. I was not sure whether or not I would be able to prepare for and pass my exams with the traditional Ramadan routine that included heavy random socialisation and above-average consumption of heavy food and desserts,” she explained.
To prepare herself for the task, Anwar decided to adopt the methodology she has been acquiring in her health-coaching classes. She cut down on heavy food, allowed time for mindful socialisation, and secured enough peace of mind for her prayers. “It was a life changing moment and I learned that the health problem I sort of got used to, including digestive disorders and nerves inflammation, were nothing to get used to simply because when I changed my lifestyle I was instantly cured from these problems,” she said.
In the process, Anwar lost weight, regained energy and accentuated her focus. “I just felt much better in general,” she said.
In parallel with the personal detox exercise, Anwar, as part of the requirement for her degree, launched a Facebook page for those who are interested to pursue health coaching. She started with a small group that got bigger fast as those subscribing to her classes were coming to see the benefits of health-coaching and how it enhanced their energy, their health and their mood, Anwar said.
Once she graduated in 2017, Anwar started to work harder to offer her coaching to a larger number of people who were coming round to learn what the concept of health-coaching was all about. And with the advent of the 2017 Ramadan, Anwar started her ‘Ramadanak Smart’ community on-line as a free of charge service.
With a growing number of people pursuing her consultancy, Anwar was inspired to learn more to be better placed to provide help. This was the technique she had acquired during her teaching years after having graduated in the 1990s from the faculty of English literature.
And just as she pursued the health-coaching class online she went for online classes of enneagram and positive psychology to better place her to accommodate different types of personality “to live a life worth living and to give meaning to everything they do.”
According to Anwar, improving the quality of life is essential to improve one’s health because people’s health is never just the product of the food and drinks people consume but also that of the energy they acquire and the way the handle their problems or pursue their goals.
Anwar said that when she tells members of the community of Ramadanak Smart or any other subscribers to her page that they need to listen to their bodies, she intends to alert them to the way their bodies react to everything from food to relationships.
Anwar’s experience as health-coach, she said, “was very inspiring especially as she got to see how her help assisted people to change the way they manage their lives – yes, especially during the month of Ramadan,” she said. “It really was not just because I saw people losing at least two to three sizes, with some people actually going down from size large to size small, but because I saw people being able to better enjoy their lives and better deal with their problems,” she explained.
Particularly inspiring for Anwar, she added, were the positive energy shared by Ramadanak Smart community. “People were really being motivated and they were very engaged and truly inspiring,” she said.
It was this positive energy she received from Ramadank Smart community that got her to think of writing a book on the experience she has been having. In 2018, Anwar decided to attend yet another online class – this time on how to write a book.
Before she ended her course, Anwar had already started to put down the first pages of the first draft for her book. “I wanted it to be an easy and inspiring read; I wanted it to get people to see other people who share similar problems or worries and learn how to deal with them,” she said.
The book is designed to encourage people to go through a gradual change during the 30 days of Ramadan. This is actually what Anwar herself did, the pursuit of gradual change.
For the first ten days of the month, members of Ramadanak Smart community are encouraged to cut down on heavy food, to drink a lot of water during the hours between sunset and dawn and to relieve themselves of unwanted social duties in favour of whole grain food, smoothies, meditation and quality praying times. For the second ten days, members of the community are encouraged to take a few steps further on this road and then for the last ten days there comes the time to abandon dairy and priortise gluten-free foods.
“It might sound strict or complicated but it is not,” Anwar said. Once the journey starts, she added, people start finding ways to work things out, including coming up with innovative ideas to make this routine as compatible as possible with the Ramadan mood.
“For example, people really came up with ideas on how to have light desserts and how to have substitutes for the traditional Ramadan desserts,” she said.
In her book, Anwar shared some of the experiences she came across during her health-coaching journey, especially in relation to Ramadan. “This is the original concept of the book, to reflect on personal accounts and to see the problems that people come across and how they get over them,” Anwar said. This approach, she added, is perhaps one reason why the book was a real success.
In addition to being a very easy and interesting read, Ramadanak Smart is not at all patronising or presumptuous. It is not offering a strict life-style prescription but rather a methodology for harmonisation of what people could do and what they want to achieve.
According to Anwar, this is the whole purpose of life-coaching, “to help people listen to and help their bodies and to find the right balance for their food and for their lives rather than to get stuck with discomforting situations.”